Ring Says It Helps Cops Fight Crime But The Data Shows It's No Better At This Than Any Other Security Camera
from the and-its-competitors-aren't-dragged-down-by-law-enforcement-baggage dept
The number of law enforcement agencies Ring partners with continues to grow — up to nearly 900 by the latest count. Ring pitches its devices to homeowners as a better way to keep their homes secure. And maybe it is. But the pitches it makes to law enforcement agencies are something else.
Ring drives this particularly questionable engagement by insinuating people who’ve received free or cheap cameras will become part of a surveillance network overseen by cops, who will be able to solve tons of crimes and receive tons of footage from compliant recipients without a warrant.
None of this appears to be happening. While homes with Ring cameras are arguably more secure, the same could be said for any consumer camera — most of which aren’t handed to homeowners by law enforcement. A recent report by Cyrus Farivar for NBC News shows there’s not much crime being solved by the vast network of Ring cameras and the company’s hundreds of law enforcement partners. (via Jeffrey Nonken in the Techdirt chat window)
Thirteen of the 40 jurisdictions reached, including Winter Park, said they had made zero arrests as a result of Ring footage. Thirteen were able to confirm arrests made after reviewing Ring footage, while two offered estimates. The rest, including large cities like Phoenix, Miami, and Kansas City, Missouri, said that they don’t know how many arrests had been made as a result of their relationship with Ring — and therefore could not evaluate its effectiveness — even though they had been working with the company for well over a year.
The extensive agreements with Ring — ones that allow the company to write press releases and veto law enforcement statements it doesn’t like — apparently don’t require any sort of data gathering or reporting that would tie Ring cameras to arrests. The report says none of the 40 departments contacted collect data that might indicate whether or not the increased installation of cameras has reduced crime or resulted in more arrests.
Ring cameras may be everywhere, but their contribution to combating crime is apparently no greater than its competitors. Any other camera company could boast it’s contributed just as much as Ring has, all without blurring the line between public and private by aggressively courting law enforcement agencies. The list of criminals taken down by Ring footage reads like a small town paper’s police blotter:
Of the arrests that police connected to Ring, most were for low-level non-violent property crimes, according to interviews and police records reviewed by NBC. These arrests detailed the theft of a $13 book, the theft of a Nintendo Switch video game console (and several items, including two coffee mugs, purchased from the Home Shopping Network valued at $175. In Parker County, Texas, two people were arrested for allegedly stealing a dachshund named Rufus Junior, valued at $200.
These are the success stories. And that’s from agencies that actually have success stories to relate. Most don’t have anything to talk about or are only reporting a very small number of arrests in relation to their cities’ overall property crime rate.
But it has opened a dialog of sorts between citizens and law enforcement. Some people view their cameras and the law enforcement portal as a “may I speak to the manager” connection.
Ring makes it so frictionless to share footage with police that some residents submit videos of anything they find displeasing, even when there is no indication that a crime has been committed, Lt. Santos, of Winter Park, said.
“We’ve gotten videos of racoons in the yard, with people saying, ‘Hey, can you deal with these racoons?’” he said. “That’s the type of people we’re dealing with. They’re constantly sending us video clips.”
Ring continues to insist its hundreds of law enforcement partnerships makes citizens safer. But outside of a handful of arrests related to small property crimes, there’s nothing in the data that suggests the thousands of cameras and hundreds of partnerships has actually increased public safety.